How to Propagate Lavender From Cuttings in 7 Simple Steps
Looking to propagate lavender from cuttings this season but aren't quite sure where to start? Propagation fromk cuttings is one of the most popular ways to expand your lavender crop. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey walks through 7 simple steps for successfully propagating lavender in your garden.
If you’ve been wanting to get a bunch of free baby lavender plants from an existing lavender plant, this is the guide for you. Propagating lavender from cuttings is a beginner-friendly way to multiply your herb garden in no time. In fact, it’s the preferred way for professional growers to start new lavender plants because lavender seeds can be so finicky to sprout.
With its delicate purple blossoms and soothing floral aroma, lavender is one of the most popular herbs on the planet. Its origins date back some 2,500 to the Mediterranean basin, where this hardy fragrant perennial thrives on arid sunny slopes with rocky soil.
Fortunately, it is also widely adaptable to most American gardens. From aromatic bouquets to ornamental gardens, from herbal cocktails to dessert garnishes, from bug sprays to delicate perfumes: lavender is timeless, versatile, and comes in many different varieties. Let’s dig into how you can proliferate your lavender garden from just a single plant!
Lavender cuttings are clippings of the plant’s stems with active growing tips that can grow into new lavender plants. By placing these stems into a growing medium and keeping them watered, they produce new roots and shoots that can later be transplanted to your garden.
Lavender cuttings are the cheapest, easiest, and quickest way to multiply your herb garden. You can even use cuttings from your annual lavender pruning!
Lavender is most commonly propagated by cutting. Professional growers prefer this method because it is quicker and more reliable than growing lavender from seeds.
Cuttings are a form of vegetative (asexual) propagation, which means they create exact clones of the mother plant. This is important if you’d like to propagate a popular fragrant variety like ‘Provence’ or ‘Grosso’ because they are hybrid lavenders.
On the other hand, seed (sexual) propagation will yield baby lavender plants that are genetically different from the original variety. While genetic diversity is a great thing in the plant world, seeds won’t be “true to type”. Moreover, the most vigorous and popular lavandin hybrid varieties mentioned above have sterile seeds. Seed propagators also need to be quite patient because lavender can take up to 2 full years to bloom after being sown by seed.
|Propagation by Cutting||Propagation By Seed|
|2-4 weeks to root||3-4 weeks to germinate|
|Higher success rate||Lower success rate|
|Simpler process||Requires cold stratification|
|Flowers in first season||Up to 2 years to bloom|
|Vegetative (asexual)||Seed (sexual)|
|Clone of mother plant||Genetic Diversity|
If you don’t have the patience or attentiveness to grow these finicky seeds, cuttings are the propagation method for you. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the type of stem cutting and how to root it.
Lavender is delightfully easy to propagate by cutting. This beginner-friendly method will yield you an abundance of fragrant, beautiful plants in no time!
Step 1: Choose Your Cutting Type
Like many perennial plants, lavender is a semi-woody herb that can be propagated in two different ways. Softwood cuttings come from soft, green new growth in the spring, while hardwood cuttings come from the woody portion of the plant in spring or fall.
Both types of propagation material are technically just clippings from the tips of lavender’s stems. The difference is the seasonality, stage of growth, and which part of the plant you cut from.
Softwood cuttings tend to be more fragile in the beginning, but they also root more quickly. On the other hand, hardwood cuttings are more hardy and reliable, but they take longer to root and often need a rooting hormone to get them off to a quick start.
Generally, softwood cuttings are my method of choice because they have all the vigor of spring new growth. Both types of cuttings are prepared and rooted in a similar way, yet have a few unique advantages and drawbacks:
|Softwood Cuttings||Hardwood Cuttings|
|Soft, green, pliable new growth||Woody, brown, hard twigs|
|More tender and delicate||More hardy and versatile|
|3-4″ cutting size||4-6″ cutting size|
|Collect large quantities in late spring||Propagate in spring or fall|
|Prone to root rot if medium is moist||Less prone to rotting|
|2-4 weeks to rooting||4-6+ weeks to root|
|Rooting hormone not necessary||Requires rooting hormone|
|Best for younger lavender plants||Best for mature lavender plants|
If you are unsure about which type of cutting to take, consider the age of your lavender plant and what season it is:
Young lavender plants typically have plentiful soft new growth and not much woody growth, therefore softwood cuttings are the best option for a potted or juvenile lavender plant. You could severely damage their growth by taking too many hardwood cuttings.
However, older plants may have more semi-woody twigs (depending on their pruning) and can usually handle the stress of propagation thanks to their robust root system and abundance of foliage.
If it is not yet summer and you’d like to propagate lavender, softwood cuttings are the way to go. Quick-growing tips are most plentiful in spring after bud break and before flowering.
Stems that have already flowered are typically not very reliable for rooting because they are putting their energy into the blossom. It’s not impossible to root stems that have flower buds, but it isn’t as reliable.
If spring has passed and your plant has already started blooming, it’s best to wait until late summer or early fall to take hardwood cuttings during the post-flowering stage. Then, you will have all winter to grow those babies in a warm indoor environment so they are ready to plant outside in the spring.
If you live in an extra cold climate, remember that taking cuttings mid-winter during a plant’s dormant phase is usually a waste of time.
The lavender leaves need to be actively growing for cuttings to root the most successfully. But this isn’t usually a problem in areas where lavender remains evergreen (zones 6 and warmer, depending on variety). Regardless of which type you choose, the cutting and root processes are very similar.
Step 2: Gather and Sanitize Your Tools
Before you begin, be sure that you have all the tools you need for propagation. Remember that sanitization is key to ensure that you don’t introduce any pests or diseases to the mother plant nor the new offspring.
It helps to think of taking cuttings as a bit of a surgical procedure. Anything on your tools can easily spread from one plant to another. You also want to be sure your knife or garden scissors are as sharp as possible, otherwise you could tear the stems and delay the rooting process.
You will need the following supplies:
- Sharp, sanitized knife or shears.
- Small pot or cell trays.
- Rooting medium or a homemade mix.
- Optional rooting hormone.
- Optional plastic cover.
Step 3: Take 3-6” Cuttings
Begin with a vigorous, green, growing lavender plant that is healthy and free of disease. Your “mother” plant should be visibly strong and established, without any signs of powdery mildew, crown rot, or pest damage.
To take a softwood cutting, begin with an actively growing lavender plant in the spring. Early morning is the best time to take cuttings because the plant cells are still turgid (full of water). They tend to have the most moisture retained in the stems, which ensures the best chance of successful rooting.
Find stem tips that have lush new growth of foliage, but no flowers or buds. The stem should be light green and pliable, which indicates actively growing new tissue. Avoid cutting any woody or semi-woody parts of the plant. Avoid any stems that already have blossoms.
From the tip, locate the first few nodes (bumps) along the stem. These nodes are super important because they have the cellular capacity to grow the new roots and shoots that will help the cutting grow into a new plant.
Count back 4 to 5 nodes until you have a portion of the stem that is about 3 to 4” long. Use your knife or shears to cut at a diagonal angle just below the final node. Repeat this process to take as many softwood cuttings as you’d like.
Place them gently in a basket or box and keep protected from the sun throughout the process.
To take a hardwood cutting, find a green leaf tip in the spring or fall. Follow the stem down past the softwood to the semi-woody portion of the plant. This area should be some shade of brown and have the rigidity of a twig (but with plenty of leaves).
Cut the stem with a sharp knife at a 45° angle about 1 to 2 inches below that green softwood. The cutting should be 4 to 6 inches long and have plenty of foliage. Consider collecting these cuttings as part of your regular fall lavender pruning.
Step 4: Strip Leaves and Dip in Rooting Hormone
Next, gently strip off the 2/3 of leaves of either the hardwood or softwood cutting. This should leave behind about 2-3” of upper growth that looks somewhat like a funky mini pine tree.
Use a knife to scrape off a bit of the stem’s skin about ½ inch from the bottom tip. This will expose bare cambium cells and make it easier for the cutting to absorb a rooting solution and proliferate new root cells.
Rooting hormones are essentially a synthetic version of a plant auxin hormone called indolebutyric acid (IBA). While it isn’t absolutely necessary, it increases your chance of rooting success by stimulating the root initiation from the cut end of the stem.
Benefits of a Rooting Hormone
- Accelerates root establishment.
- Increases amount of roots produced.
- Increases the chance of rooting success.
- Prevents the cutting from rotting in the soil.
- Simple to use.
Alternative Rooting Solutions
There are also several DIY and organic homemade rooting solution alternatives. Many of these are easier to use (and cheaper) than commercially purchased solutions. Let’s take a look at them!
Apple cider vinegar
This traditional health remedy is also great for plant roots. ACV contains over 30 trace elements and antimicrobial properties to prevent the cutting from rotting. Dilute 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in 1 gallon of water and dip the ends of your cuttings into the solution before rooting.
If you have willow growing near you, you can harvest the young willow stems in the spring and soak them in a bucket of water to create an auxin-rich tea. Auxin is a plant hormone that causes cells in the growing tips of plants to elongate, which is what we want our lavender cuttings to do as they establish new roots. The fresh shoots of willow contain high levels of natural rooting hormones like IBA as well as rooting-supportive compounds like salicylic acid.
The antimicrobial properties of cinnamon help prevent fungi and bacteria from colonizing young cuttings. It also stimulates growth and is simple to dip stems into. Be sure to use the powdered form.
Another great antibacterial, pure raw honey helps cuttings get established without risk of rotting. Dilute the honey to about 1 tablespoon per cup of water. Coat the bottom of the cuttings in the solution.
Believe it or not, you can even spit on the bottom of your cuttings to help them grow roots faster! Human saliva has hopeful enzymes and antimicrobial properties to boost the success of cuttings. We suggest spitting into a small bowl, then coating the ends of plant trimmings just before you put them into a rooting medium.
Whether you choose a rooting hormone or a DIY alternative, be sure that the scraped end of the cutting is thoroughly submerged and covered in the mixture. Then, you’re ready to get those cuttings into soil!
Step 5: Plant 2-4” Deep in Rooting Medium
Fill cell trays or potting containers with a well-drained rooting medium or a homemade mix. This is where the cuttings will get established to prepare for transplanting later on. Be sure that you don’t overly compress the mixture into the cells.
If you would like to root in a jar of water, be sure that you have hardwood cuttings that are long enough to keep the leafy tips above the water surface. Softwood cuttings are best propagated in a soil or peat-based medium.
Next, place the dipped end of your cuttings directly into the filled cells about 2” deep (for softwood cuttings) or up to 4” deep (for hardwood cuttings). The upper leaves should be above the surface and the stripped end submerged in the soil.
Step 6: Place in a Sunny, Warm Area
Caring for your cuttings is simple and very similar to taking care of newly seeded trays. Keep them in a warm area that mimics a greenhouse environment. You can use a cell tray dome to help conserve moisture and warmth if needed. You can place trays on a heating pad set to 75°F to help them establish more quickly.
Cuttings should be in full sunshine and remain consistently moist. The soil should never dry out, but it should also never be soggy. Too much moisture can quickly rot the bottom end of cuttings and cause them to fail. Regularly that the soil is wet about 1” down and irrigate just until water comes out of the drainage hole of the tray.
Step 7: Check Roots and Up-Pot
On average, softwood cuttings take 2 to 4 weeks to root, while hardwood cuttings take 4 to 6 weeks. After a few weeks, you can give stems a very gentle tug to check if they have started developing roots. When you start to feel some resistance, wait a bit longer to ensure they have filled out their cell tray. Rushing this process is a common mistake that can ruin the propagation process.
Rooted cuttings should look just like the garden seedling plugs you buy at the nursery: green new growth above and roots that fill each plug to hold onto the surrounding soil. When you’re certain that they are ready to transplant (they feel firmly rooted in place when you tug), simply wiggle the plugs out of their containers. If you rooted multiple cuttings in a large pot, you can use a spoon or garden trowel to lift them from the soil.
Now that you have these happily rooted cuttings, all you need to do is plant them just like any other baby plant! Lavender loves well-drained sandy or gravelly soil. I’ve had the most success planting newly established cuttings in 6” pots to let them grow up more before putting them straight into the garden, however you can skip this step if desired.
All in all, just be sure that the baby lavender plants stay at the same soil level as they were before. You don’t want to re-bury the stems nor expose the roots! If you do, you may end up with a poorly performing or dying plant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you root lavender cuttings in water?
Hardwood lavender cuttings can easily be rooted in water as long as the lower portions of the submerged cutting have been stripped of their leaves. It can take 3 to 6 weeks for lavender to root in water, but a warm sunny windowsill can help speed up the process. Avoid rooting softwood cuttings in water, as they are far more prone to root rot.
How long do lavender cuttings take to root?
Softwood lavender cuttings take 2-4 weeks to root, while hardwood cuttings take 4-6 weeks, depending on the conditions. You can accelerate the lavender cutting process by using a rooting hormone or an organic alternative such as willow water or diluted apple cider vinegar.
Where do you cut lavender to propagate?
To propagate lavender by softwood cutting, find an actively growing stem tip and take a cutting 3-4” long. Be sure to cut at an angle just below a node (bump on the stem). Be sure that the stem is not budding or flowering.
Can lavender be rooted from cuttings?
Lavender is very easily propagated by cutting, in fact it is the preferred method by professional growers. Growing lavender from cutting is far quicker and more reliable than planting lavender seeds. It also ensures that you have a “true to type” clone of the original plant.
Who doesn’t want more lavender plants in their garden? As you can see, taking cuttings is a super simple and cheap process that anyone can do.
A Quick Recap:
- Lavender is most easily propagated by cutting rather than seed.
- Softwood cuttings are taken from green new growth in the spring.
- Hardwood cuttings are taken in the spring or fall.
- Take 3 to 6” cuttings from the tips of a healthy lavender plant.
- Cut at a 45° angle just below a node.
- Optionally use a rooting hormone or solution.
- Plant in a well-draining rooting medium.
- Give cuttings a gentle tug after 2-4 weeks to check they’re rooted.
If you follow the simple steps outlined here, you’ll be propagating lavender from cuttings in no time at all! May your summer be filled with an abundance of aromatic purple blossoms and happy bees!